On October 11, 2019, the Conservative Party released its costed platform. It fails to address dementia, and specifically, it includes no commitment to fund a national dementia strategy. This is despite the government's statutory mandate to develop and implement a comprehensive national dementia strategy under the National Strategy for Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias Act, which Parliament passed in June 2017.
In response to this omission, Dementia Justice wrote Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer to ask how his party, if elected, would meet the government's legal obligation to develop and implement a national dementia strategy, without a funding plan. As of October 17, 2019, we have not received a response.
Dementia is a non-partisan issue. As we summarize in our party platform chart (updated October 18, 2019), the NDP has committed $35 million over four years, should they form government. The Green Party has committed $50 million annually for five years. While not in their platform, the Liberal Party’s Budget 2019 proposed $50 million over five years to help advance the strategy.
Early in the 2019 election campaign, Dementia Justice wrote federal leaders seeking their party's commitment to improving access to justice for people with dementia who are arrested or charged with a criminal offence.
As of October 17, 2019, we have received responses from the following parties:
The NDP reiterated their commitment to fund a national dementia strategy, and indicated that this would include supporting and preventing persons with dementia who come into the criminal justice system. They also noted the need to address resident-to-resident violence, and their long-standing advocacy for criminal justice system reforms that are built on evidence-based policies. The NDP stated that part of this work would include reviewing legislation to consider the recommendations we made in our housing vulnerability report.
The Green Party also reiterated their commitment to fund a national dementia strategy. They agreed that the justice system is failing persons with dementia, and that reforms are urgently needed. They expressed interest in pursuing regulatory and legislative criminal justice reforms, as well as including justice professionals to ensure that the issue remains part of the national conversation. Adding a justice sector representative to the strategy's ministerial advisory board is a key recommendation in our housing vulnerability report.
Dementia is a matter of national and urgent importance. There are currently 564,000 Canadians living with dementia. In 15 years, this number is projected to reach nearly one million. According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, it costs Canadians $10.4 billion annually to care for those with the condition. While most persons with dementia will not come into conflict with the criminal justice system, it is a matter of pressing importance that our politicians address the rights and needs of this small and often forgotten population--no matter which party forms government after October 21.
About Dementia Justice
Founded in 2017, Dementia Justice is dedicated to advancing the rights, needs and dignity of people with dementia who are in conflict with the criminal justice system. We aim to achieve our objectives through public advocacy, awareness-raising, education, and interdisciplinary legal and policy research. The organization transitioned from an incorporated society to an unincorporated association in April 2019.
Heather Campbell Pope, BA (Hons.), LLB, LLM